02-23-11-sanctum.gifSANCTUM (Rated R)     4 Stars

Why does everyone seem to hate Sanctum (109 minutes) so much? I mean, I get all the criticism about wooden acting, but people still seem to watch Nicolas Cage films and he hasn’t actually “acted” in anything since 1990’s Wild at Heart. And I think everyone else on the planet who wears glasses can agree with me that 3D is a huge pain in the tuckus and should be forbidden by law — but if you MUST film in 3D, underwater waterfalls and falling rocks won’t do you so wrong.

Admittedly, there really isn’t anyone to sympathize with. Daddy Dearest (Richard Roxburgh) is overbearing. Sonny Boy (Rhys Wakefield) is pretty whiny. Moneybags (Ioan Gruffudd) is exactly as entitled as you’d expected. Pretty- Girl-Who-is-Not-Anna-Paquin-But-Sure-Did-Look-Like- Her-in-One-of-the-Previews (Alice Parkinson) seems OK at first, but it turns out, that like all women, she is completely useless in a survival situation. Not that any of her traveling companions try too terribly hard to inform her of the consequences of her actions. After all, she climbed Everest! So, since was smart enough to get up a mountain she is smart enough to understand the implicit dangers present in a wholly unfamiliar and unexpected situation, so anything that happens to her is totally her fault.

The setting for all the high drama is an underwater cave in Papua New Guinea that IN NO WAY resembles or works as a metaphor for any female body parts. Daddy Dearest is the world’s most famous explorer, and he is forcing his son to work for him for free over summer vacation. As the story begins, the expeditioners are preparing to shut down the mission and wait out a cyclone. Moneybags helicopters in with his girlfriend Not Anna Paquin and spews entitlement all over the encampment. Sonny Boy and Luko the Expendable (Cramer Cain) escort them down into the dark depths.

As we all know when you have money, telling people what to do always works out well, and the mere presence of Moneybags inspires Daddy Dearest to take one more crack at navigating the newly discovered dark wet channels of the unexplored cave. Too bad for the explorers that the expected cyclone decided to come way earlier than it was supposed to, flooding the camp and blocking the surface access.

In a pretty rocking scene, Luko the Expendable dons a stunning red shirt and gets bashed around while trying to rescue the pretty and/or rich people. A succession of fairly visceral scenes follows, in which the cast gets tore up until the group is down to a single rebreather and they’re all out of love.

The group steadily fragments and Sonny Boy manages to put aside his convictions that Daddy Dearest lacks a moral guidepost in time for an impromptu poetry lesson delivered amidst a column of reeking bat guano. Male bonding complete, the two head towards the Solomon Sea. Now is a good time to make bets on who will survive the movie.

I enjoyed the movie. The scenery was pretty, the underwater shots spectacular, and the nasty bits featured truly impressive effects work. However, for some people, that might not be enough to make up for the fact that the plot limps along and the characters suck.

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